Hispanics in Craft Jobs Raise Safety, Communication Issues
Hispanics have yet to break into management positions in the nation’s construction industry, but they continue to make strides in gaining craft personnel positions, according to “The 2007 U.S. Construction Industry Talent Development Report” from FMI.
Ninety-two percent of the survey respondents who were in management positions indicated that they were Caucasian and not of Hispanic origin, according to the survey. While this was an increase over last year’s survey, it was almost identical to survey results in 2004, where minorities represented only 7% of managers or supervisors, according to the FMI report.
However, slightly more than 25% of craft personnel were Hispanic in the latest survey, up from 21% in 2005. National data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that Hispanics comprise almost one-third of the construction workforce.
Nearly half (48%) of the survey respondents were general contractors, followed by heavy/highway/utility (17%), mechanical/plumbing (13%), electrical (7%), specialty trade (4%), residential (2%), construction managers (2%) and others (7%). Forty-three percent reported annual revenues of $100-499 million, followed by 37% in the $50-99 million range. More than half of the respondents (57%) were either training or human resource directors.
“While many Hispanics have traditionally sought work in the agriculture sector, many are finding construction preferable,” according to FMI, which provides management consulting and investment banking services for the construction industry.
This trend is raising safety, cultural and communication issues for the workers, the companies that employ them and construction company owners, the report says.
Language barriers are contributing to concerns with safety in construction. “Often workers who cannot understand directions will nod and act as if they do. In addition to not understanding, many do not possess the necessary language skills to ask questions.” The report recommends English as Second Language resources and OSHA safety training programs in Spanish.
One key to successfully bridging cultural differences when training Hispanic construction workers in construction procedures is to have trainers who are not only bilingual, but also represent both ethnic groups, the report says. “Another thing to consider is that many Hispanic immigrants are often illiterate. Even if written training material in Spanish is available, these workers will not be able to read or understand it.”
Hispanic employees also need to learn that “safety is paramount and that they will not be fired for reporting unsafe conditions or acts.” Once this is accomplished, “they will be much more likely to follow important safety procedures.”
Visual job aids and explanations of safety and other procedures in pictures can also be a relatively easy and inexpensive way to communicate with Hispanic workers, according to FMI. “Another is to learn basic safety terms. For example, yelling ‘peligro’ or ‘cuidado’ when someone is in danger may save a life. A number of construction-specific English/Spanish dictionaries are available and should be made available on every job site.”
For a copy of FMI's "2007 U.S. Construction Industry Talent Development Report," call 800.877.1364 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Home Builders Institute Offers New Program to Teach Hispanic Adults English
Sed de Saber™-Construction Edition is an easy-to-use, take-home learning tool created exclusively for the construction industry by the Home Builders Institute to improve communication, quality and safety on the job site.
The product, now available at www.seddesaberconstruction.com, uses proven LeapFrog technology to allow workers to listen, record and play back their pronunciation of more than 500 vocabulary words and 340 phrases. Participants who practice 30 minutes each day will complete the program in just four months. Learning at home, on their own time, also eliminates scheduling conflicts.
Sed de Saber™-Construction Edition was developed by a team of subject matter experts assembled through HBI — including superintendents, craft skills experts, remodelers and builders — to ensure that the information is relevant to today’s home building workforce. To address worker safety issues related to the language barrier, HBI created a seventh book based entirely on the NAHB-OSHA Job Site Safety Handbook.
NAHB members can purchase the learning system, all seven books and a skills assessment to chart employee progress for $395 per kit. The non-member price is $495. Order today and empower your workers to learn English at www.seddesaberconstruction.com.